During the first party presidents’ debate on August 26, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Tshering Tobgay said that he had asked Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) regarding its former employee Dawa, who is Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s (DNT) candidate, accusing the government of his termination from BBS.
Tshering Tobgay was responding to president of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) Pema Gyamtsho’s query on the status of media and dismissal of shows such as Dawai Kudroen and Nangghee Tam on BBS during PDP’s tenure as the government.
“I heard about Dawa going around villages saying that the government terminated him and did not let him work. I was concerned and asked BBS’s Managing Director. He (MD) said that Dawa submitted his resignation and also thanked the organisation,” Tshering Tobgay said at the debate.
In an interview with Kuensel yesterday, DNT president Lotay Tshering said it was disappointing to see a seasoned politician deviating from the theme of the debate. “Freedom of media was what DPT asked the former lyonchhen. Instead of answering the question, he went on to personalise the issue, which was out of context and he was absolutely wrong.”
Lotay Tshering said that he was with Dawa during his familiarisation tours.
“Dawa said that he was not terminated or imprisoned, and that he did not go abroad. He said that the work environment changed drastically after 2013 and that he could not continue with the programme he wanted to conduct. Dawa never said he was kicked out. He said he willingly resigned.”
The issue surfaced after the BBS management on August 16 aired an announcement stating that some aspiring political candidates, during their visit to the constituencies, were saying that they were wrongfully terminated. The management refuted the allegations as baseless and defamatory.
“There is no record of the organisation having issued termination letters, but we do have copies of the resignation letters they submitted to the organisation which are proof that they resigned at their own will,” the announcement stated.
BBS’s managing director, Tshering Wangchuk said there was no coherence between the former Lyonchhen mentioning Dawa’s name in his debate and the BBS announcement.
“The announcement was not for political reasons. It was basically to save the image of BBS. We ran this immediately after we heard about the allegations from few sources,” he told Kuensel. “We have not terminated anyone. When people go around accusing BBS, we have to do something in our defense. We have not mentioned the name of employees because we don’t want to be politicized.”
He said that former prime minister called him two or three times inquiring about several employees resigning from BBS and also after Dawa’s resignation. The MD said that he was called twice when he was the prime minster and once after the government dissolved. “I told the former lyonchhen that Dawa resigned voluntarily and that the organisation could not stop employees from resigning. Eighty percent of former employees who resigned are in Australia,” Tshering Wangchuk said.
Dawa told Kuensel that the allegations against him made by PDP president were wrong and untrue.
“These are baseless allegations against me. He had the forum as the president of PDP and I didn’t get the forum. So I had no opportunity and platform to refute. That’s very sad,” he said.
Dawa said that the people in every gathering inquired about him being terminated and imprisoned after leaving BBS.
“In some places, people were asked not to talk like me and if they did, they could be imprisoned,” he claimed. “I made it clear that I was not terminated, nor imprisoned and that I resigned voluntarily. The reason I said was that it was not conducive to practice journalism in BBS.”
Dawa said that the former government appointed its supporter as BBS’s managing director. “That was a political appointee and therefore the atmosphere was not good. I had to leave. This was voluntary resignation,” he said.
He also said that the public announcement run by BBS was not credible. “There was no source mentioned. To authenticate the public information BBS management should reveal the source,” he said. “We now clearly know following the party president debate, that BBS was listening to the dictates of some politicians and ran the announcement. BBS is a public resource, it’s a public forum, and BBS management has no right to abuse the forum like this.”
Additional reporting by